Nixie Tube Pen Watchdog




Introduction: Nixie Tube Pen Watchdog

About: I like to read all about the creative ideas everyone has here. I love to make "one of" projects, learn something about doing it and then move on to something new. Hope you like my ideas. email me a…

I made this desktop pen caddy for a friend. When all the pens are in the box, the Nixie tube indicates nothing in the display. Remove a pen and it lights up the corresponding letter to the pen that is missing. It also has a WWII NOS Blinky oxygen flow meter from a B17. This one just lights up and doesn't blink like the other one I did in my military box (reference my other instructable). It has a pilot light to inidcate the USB charger is on as well (neon bulb).

Wood - Hickory and Oak - fatigued and tung oiled. - $8

Blinky flowmeter $14 eBay

Nixie tube $3

Nixie driver - disposable camera driver as powered by a rechargeable battery charger.

Reed switches - $3

Assorted scrap brass and copper, electrical ground connectors, misc. electrical connectors...

Build the box AFTER you build the internal working triggers. It was very hard to make everything fit well and not interfere with the mechanism. See next step. To patina the copper I used heat from a torch and muriatic acid. I fatigued the box with a torch and letter punches, and the fittings with acid and copper sulfate. Afterwards I finished it with tung oil and a good coat of wax.

Step 1: The Trip Mechanism

A simple teeter-totter design I figured by trial and error. I used the magnets from old ultrasonic tooth brush heads as they are very powerful and small in size. Epoxy works well to hold them and the reed switches are hot melt glued to the bottom platform. When the pens are in, the magnets are up and so no reed switch is closed. Each lead to a different letter on the Nixie is wired to the switch for that pen. Make sure the spacers have washers between them and the mechanism is free from binding.

Step 2: The Internal Assembly

The insides are basically the following:

Nixie Tube - Disposable camera voltage driver - and rechargeable battery charger.

Pen trip mechanism wired for each reed switch to the corresponding lead on the nixie.

The USB charger

The power cord terminals

I power the LED to light the blinker from the 5vdc from the USB... I just tap off of it. The toggle switch powers the USB so it isnt always on. But the battery cahrger is always hot so the Nixie can work 24/7 to keep your pens safe!

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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is neat! I keep vintage electronic parts around my office for the sort of Captain Nemo/Mad Scientist look, so this pen holder would go good with my office, but I should tell you something I noticed in the first picture: when storing pens/pencils vertical, as in cup or jar, you should store pens tip down and pencils tip up. Pencils, so the tip stays sharp (not grinding on the bottom of the holder) and Pens tip down, so that ink flows to the tip, not away and drys up. Hope this helps.


    4 years ago

    Where would one purchase a Nixie tube?


    Reply 4 years ago

    I buy mine here... from Sergey in Russia! It takes a LONG time to get them but his site is very good. It is written in English and has a lot of reference material for each tube. Just be patient to get them and know that it is much cheaper and the selection is great over ebay.


    4 years ago